I met Townes Van Zandt at Rockefeller’s night club in Houston after a show he did trading songs with Guy Clark. I had seen him twice before that, but had not met him. I was backstage leaning up against the wall smoking a Marlboro red and he came up and bummed a cigarette off me￼￼￼. When I reached into my pocket to grab my Zippo to light his cigarette, he saw some guitar picks in my hand and said “what’s your name?” I said “Jesse”. He said “I see those picks man, you look like a guitar picker”. Then I lit his cigarette & as he blew out his first smoke he said “I’m Townes…nice to meet you” then walked out the backstage door, got into the backseat of a old brown four-door Mercury and drove off into the night.
When I was a kid, songwriters in Texas were considered shaman, or prophets or mystic poets. ￼￼￼￼They weren’t people who wrote show business ditty’s for money￼. (and it’s almost a miracle when commerce shakes the hand one of these poets￼) Townes was the embodiment of that type of writer. ￼Imagine the liberating feeling of not being motivated by money in the year 2020. Luckily, there’s still a tiny handful of writers carrying on this legacy who are witty, broken, painfully honest & clairvoyant enough to truly own what Townes was about. But don’t expect them to look or sound anything like TVZ￼￼￼…that’s impossible. Besides, comparison is the thief of joy, right? I think Oscar Wilde said that, right?